Monday, June 30, 2014

The Pressgang, 1790

The Pressgang, George Morland, 1790, Wikiart.

It has been quite some time since we've featured press gangs on here! The practice continued throughout the eighteenth and well into the nineteenth century, going so far as to spark international incidents and at least one war. Though this period is beyond the scope of our blog, you'll find plenty of information on the period from 1790-1820 at other websites.

Back to the matter at hand. Here we see three tars in a press gang taking hold of a man standing aboard a small boat, while a couple and their dog look on in horror.

On the far left, holding the boat ashore by its chain, one Jack is clad in a black cap (possibly knit, though impossible to tell), a short blue jacket with short slashed cuffs, a plain white pair of slops, red waistcoat, and unusual black stockings. A gnarled walking stick, cudgel, or rattan is tucked under one arm. In the water beside him floats a round hat that, presumably, belongs to the bare headed tar at the center of the piece.

He wears a blue jacket that ends at his waist with waist pockets and (though I'm not positive) a single vent at the back. Though we cannot see his front, we can say he wears a pair of white trousers and also carries a rattan or cudgel. To the starboard of the boat stands another sailor with a raised fist. He too has a round hat, but his jacket is brown. The shirt is a light blue, with a black neckcloth at his collar. This seafarer wears either a pair of slops or trousers, though it is difficult to say exactly.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tiles, c. 1757-1761

Tile, John Sadler, 1757-1761, Winterthur Collection.

Followers of this blog may recognize this image. As the Winterthur catalog description states, it also appeared on a wedding plate by John Sadler in 1769. Copies of this plate are in the collections of both Winterthur and the National Maritime Museum.

The image is exactly the same in every way, meaning that the transfer was re-used from tile to plate. It causes me to wonder if the image appears on any other item. Perhaps a pitcher or bowl?

Though nothing new can be said about the sailors depicted, Winterthur offers something new: a companion piece!

It turns out that the transfer in the fist image, and therefore on the wedding plate, is a follow up to this one! They are the cliche "sailor's farewell" and "sailor's return."

The sailor's return is depicted on the second tile. The central figure, gesturing away to the ship, appears to be the same tarpawlin who so happily leans into the arms of his woman. His cocked hat points forward over short hair with side curls. A single breasted and loosely fit short jacket with open slash cuffs hangs open over a shirt with no waistcoat. At his neck is a white neckcloth tied not unlike a cravat, but loose. A pair of slops completes his garb. The stick we see in the "sailor's return" tile is present here, tucked under his arm.

In the background are some of his shipmates climbing aboard a jolly boat. The largest figure stands on the left, and is dressed in virtually the same fashion as the central figure, but with a round hat rather than a cocked hat, and no stick. In the boat is another jack who wears a cocked hat with the brim hanging down, no jacket, and shirt sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Grove With an Altar of Stones, 1767

A Grove with an Altar of Stones, supposed to be a Place of Worship, J. Collyer, 1767, Google Books.

Yet another image drawn from the book A Voyage round the World in His Majesty's Ship the Dolphin, this print is far less fanciful than the last, which featured gigantic native people accepting a Jack Tar's biscuit. Though less exciting, it does give us a good look at a pair of sailors in the middle foreground.

An officer with a bagged queue sits on the left, but we're focusing on the sailors in the center. Both of them wear cocked hats, though it is difficult to tell how the fellow on the left is wearing his. The seafarer on the right appears to be wearing it backward, though it could be cocked very far to his left. Each of them wears a short jacket with three vents along the back, and waist pockets. They also both wear a pair of white trousers.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ha! Ha! Hah! - I've got the Chink, 1770's

Ha! Ha! hah! - I've got the Chink, Carington Bowles, 1770's, British Museum.

A rosy cheeked tar counts his coins under the watchful gaze of a tavern woman. She stirs the small bowl of punch that is certainly intended for this sailor.

His long single breasted jacket is blue with slashed mariner's cuffs and no collar. Interestingly, it appears to be lined in red and bordered in yellow or gold. It may be that whatever brought him his fortune gave him enough for a finer jacket as well as that bowl of punch he so happily purchases.

A round hat with an unusually tall and conical crown is fitted with a blue ribbon tied into a bow. He wears a red or raspberry single breasted waistcoat and what may either be interpreted as slops or a pair of trousers.

EDIT: Follower Ike has shed a new light on this puzzling print. The sailor's tall hat and folded back cuffs lined in red are very odd for a seaman of this period, and were not drawn from common tars of the day. Instead, the figure comes from a seventeenth century print entitled "The Five Senses (personified by peasants): Hearing." You can see the original in the collection of the British Museum.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recreating The Motley Crew of the Scorpion

On August 23, 1776, the Virginia Gazette published by Purdie, ran this advertisement for runaway sailors.

These five men abandoned the Virginia Navy's sloop of war Scorpion, Wright Westcott master. The Scorpion and her crew were later captured by the British in 1781, but saw quite a bit of running between the West Indies and the Chesapeake in that time.

For the sake of making it easier to search for this particular ad, I'm going to transcribe it here:

Yeocomico, August 10, 1776
RUN away form on boar the Scorpion sloop of war the following seamen, viz. GEORGE PATTERSON, boatswain, a well set man about 5 feet 8 inches high, with brown complexion, short black hair curled around, and a snubbed nose ; had on a small round hat bound, a short blue jacket, and narrow trousers, and took with him the vessel's silver call. JAMES PARKS, a likely well made man about 5 feet 7 inches high, with brown complexion, and black hair ; he wears a cocked hat, had on a long blue jacket, and short wide trousers. JOHN LOWRY, a stout, well made man, with a red face, light hair, and about 5 feet 6 inches high ; had on an old blue jacket, and old duck trousers. THOMAS DAVIS, a slender made man, about 5 feet 10 inches high, dark complexion, much pitted with the small-pox, and long black hair ; had on a new felt hat, blue jacket, and new osnabrug trousers. DAVID REESE, a short slender man about 5 feet 5 inches high, dark complexion, short straight black hair, and has a great impediment in his speech ; had on an old hat, blue jacket, and very dirty shirt and trousers. Whoever takes up the said seamen, and secures them in any jail, so that I can get them, shall have EIGHT DOLLARS reward for each. WRIGHT WESTCOTT.
Much of this is fairly unremarkable. The clothing is exceedingly common. What is interesting is the numbers that fled, as runaway sailors are most often advertised for in ones and twos, and the fact that the Boatswain deserted! Patterson even took the bosun's whistle: the abovementioned "vessel's silver call."

As something of an experiment, I will attempt to match the sailors to a contemporary image that matches their description, to give us a ballpark visual estimate of what this crew may have looked like.

George Patterson - "small round hat bound, short blue jacket, and narrow trousers"

Detail, "The Sailor's Return," 1786

James Parks - "a cocked hat, had on a long blue jacket, and short wide trousers"

Detail, "The Sailor's Return from Active Service," Date Unknown

John Lowry - "old blue jacket, and old duck trousers"

Detail, "The Sailor's Farewell," Date Unknown
Thomas Davis - "new felt hat, blue jacket, and new osnabrug trousers"

Detail, "Paul Jones Shooting a Sailor Who Had Attempted to Strike His Colours in an Engagement," 1779
David Reese - "an old hat, blue jacket, and very dirty shirt and trousers"

Detail, "A Sailor Leaning on a Gun on the Pallas," 1775
Obviously, we don't know precisely how they looked. We don't know the material of most clothing they wore, and waistcoats go entirely unmentioned. Still, this collection of contemporary images, matched to the descriptions provided to us, might give us a ballpark visual estimate of what a crew may have looked like.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oh! Lord Howe - they Run, 1782

Oh! Lord Howe - they Run, or Jack English Clearing the Gangway before Gibraltar, Thomas Colley, 1782, British Museum.

I missed this print time and again, but it was brought to my attention by the excellent 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center. Check it out!

In a typical caricature of the British sailor, Jack English gives Spain and France a thrashing! This print celebrates the Great Siege of Gibraltar, a much vaunted success of the British over the allied forces during the American Revolutionary War.

Jack English wears a black round hat with a narrow brim, a black neckcloth, and a single breasted red jacket. His close fit trousers are of the broad fall type, and with vertical blue stripes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Sailor Sitting on a Chest, c. 1790

"A sailor sitting on a chest," c. 1790, artist unknown, National Maritime Museum.

Here's an interesting piece! The catalog entry for this unnamed, undated piece from an unknown artist is contradictory, at once declaring that it is both ca. 1790, and ca. 1810. That's a pretty big difference, even in the fairly slow to change aspect of sailor's fashion. So what do we do? It's a set of clothes that, at least with a cursory glance, could work for a huge swath of British maritime history. Let us turn, instead, to the things around him to help us get a feel for the proper date.

In his left hand he holds a long clay pipe. It has long been known that the pipes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were excellent for dating purposes. In the words of the eminent archaeologist Ivor Noël Hume:
They were as expendable as cigarettes, though vastly more durable, ensuring that their fragments survive in the ground in prodigious quantities.
The evolution of pipes, due to the incredible quantity of their fragments in bowls and stems, allows us to get fairly precise dates. Bowls, stems, and spurs all changed over time. Let's get a better look at the pipe itself.

Hume's excellent book, A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, happens to include a helpful visual guide to pipe evolution with approximate dates:

Seriously, if you don't own this book, go buy it now.
The style appears to match that of the pipe bowl third from the bottom in the third column. Unfortunately, this does little to narrow the date of this piece, as that particular bowl is clearly labeled 1780-1820. 

What can we turn to then? The bottle might help!

The style appears to be a "Case Bottle," which is a well documented form. The Society for Historical Archaeology has a page devoted to just this sort of artifact. It states, in part:
Earlier (18th century) versions usually had little taper to the sides and are often essentially vertical from shoulder to heel (Jones & Smith 1985). In the 19th century the taper seems to become more pronounced with the pictured examples being fairly typical, though some late 19th and early 20th century examples can have even more taper (empirical observations).
Unfortunately, we are also cautioned that "given the wide time span that this shape was used (over 300 years), manufacturing based diagnostic features must be used to help narrow down a date for these bottles." This is frankly impossible to do with a two dimensional image.

All we can say about the date of this image is that it does not contradict a 1790 date, but it also is not positively identified from that year.

The sailor himself wears a round hat, single breasted red waistcoat, black neckcloth, blue jacket with lapels, white trousers, and a checked shirt.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Sailors Poled, 1788

The Sailors Poled, anonymous, 1788, British Museum.

This is not the first time I've featured an election themed print on this blog. Just like Hogarth and Gilray, though clearly not as skilled as either of those two esteemed caricature artists, this anonymous illustrator includes sailors in the violence surrounding English elections. George Hanger, the fascinating veteran officer of the British Legion, commands these tars as they disperse a group of opposition supporters. At least, I think he is. I'm still a bit fuzzy on his exact placement in politics during the late 1780's, so please feel free to comment and correct me!

For our purposes, we're going to focus on the sailors under Hanger's command, as well as those sailors who are his victims.

In the foreground on the left, there are three sailors nursing bloody wounds. All three wear short jackets, with two of them in blue and one in brown. None of them wear waistcoats, though all wear trousers, with the tar in the middle wearing striped trousers.

Behind them charge a line of seafarers, driving away their prey. Those that wear hats are clad in common black round hats. All of them have white trousers that fit fairly tight to their legs, rather than wide legged.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Sailor Giving a Patagonian Woman Some Biscuit for her Child, 1767

A Sailor Giving a Patagonian Woman Some Biscuit for her Child, Frontispiece, A Voyage Round the World in His Majesty's Ship The Dolphin, John Byron, 1767, Google Books.

Maritime history of the eighteenth century is not defined solely by conflict, it was also a time of great exploration. Captain Cook's voyages are the most well known, but there were others. Commodore John Byron's clearly fanciful account of his voyage on the Dolphin is illustrated and provides us with this piece.

In it, a seafarer offers his hardtack to a woman of preposterous size, only outsized by her husband. Even the infant clutching her breast is as large as the sailor! We cannot rely on this image of a people who the illustrator knew his readers would never meet. The sailor, however, was too common a sight to fake.

Our mariner wears a short brimmed round hat with short hair. A long waistcoat sits beneath his short jacket with mariner's cuffs. Both are single breasted. Exceptionally long slops hang almost down to his feet, where white stockings and round toed shoes complete his rig. As we might expect, a stick is in his left hand.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

John Kilty's Runaways

With the exception of the Gabriel Bray collection, the images I examine here tend to be isolated examples of common sailors or, perhaps more commonly, entirely fictional caricatures of those men. As primary sources, images can take us only so far.

I have mentioned in prior posts that run away ads in eighteenth century newspapers offer us a glimpse at the material that made up the garments that sailors wore. Another benefit of them is that they can give us a hint of what the life of those sailors was actually like.

Thankfully, the Maryland State Archives has done a phenomenal job of scanning in many extant copies of the eighteenth century paper the Maryland Gazette. It's free to peruse for anyone and, though it has no text search option, is a wealth of information of the day to day workings within a British colony of the 1700's.

While searching runaway ads in this paper, I came across a fairly common one describing a sailor by the name of James Couley:

July 3, 1766
The sailor's rig he wears is incredibly unremarkable. It's precisely the sort of thing you would expect from a mariner of the period.

But the story doesn't end there.

April 6, 1769
Two years later, another run away ad was put out for the sailor John Fipps. What is remarkable about these ads is that they come from the same captain and the same ship! Polly, Captain John Kilty. He even offers the same reward for the run aways: two pistoles.

So what was life like for these sailors? It's difficult to say precisely. The advertisements taken out to push the cargo carried by the Polly and her crew are vague, promising only "An Assortment of European and East-India Goods." Though the first ad, placed in 1767, promises a tantalizing mystery "unopen'd cargo."

June 11, 1767
July 4, 1771
Captain John Kilty (sometimes spelled Kelty, as we see above) is most often referred to in reference to his son, the more famous John Kilty Junior. What we can say is that he was Catholic, hailed from London, and later became involved in the establishment of maritime defense for the colony (later state) of Maryland at the beginning of the American Revolution. He appears several times in the substantial (and only recently digitized) volumes of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution, primarily giving advice about the outfitting of ships for running cargoes and defending their shores.

But what sort of man was he? Were his sailors tempted by the possible wealth and comforts of shore? Or were they driven from the ship by a domineering captain?  These, and other questions, will probably remain perpetually unanswered.

Even so, it's good for us to orient the people we study, and place them in the context of their time. The clothing sailors wear says something about them, but there has to be something to be said to begin with.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jack Got Safe Into Port With His Prize, 1780

Jack got safe into Port with his Prize, Robert Sayer, 1780, British Museum.

Sayer's print of a sailor courting a woman (likely of ill-repute) is so cliche, I hadn't even realized that I had not yet covered it on this blog. On closer inspection, there are a few very interesting tidbits we can draw from an otherwise common image. The first is the print in the background on the left. If you have followed my blog in the past, you may recognize that as the Carington Bowles' print "The Sailor's Pleasure." Bowles meant that title to refer to tobacco, rum punch, and prize money, Sayer has an entirely different interpretation. Jack reaches not for a glass, as the lass does, but rather for her chest.

The other interesting aspect of this print is that it exists in many different versions.

Uncolored prints, as this version from the British Museum, are not uncommon of prints during the period. Bowles, Sayer, and others would offer the colored versions for a slightly higher price, but both could be easily obtained. Occasionally museums will own copies of both colored and uncolored prints, but it is not very common for them to possess both those and a knock-off.

This poorly etched version, printed, colored, and sold by an unknown source, is a clear rip-off of Sayer's print above.

In every version, Jack wears a round hat, and in Sayer's piece it has a large bow. The knock-off gives it a large feather of some sort. In both versions the sailor wears a short blue jacket with lapel, though Sayer's gives him white lapels, rather than a sloppily painted solid color. Sayer also gives the jacket what are clearly brass buttons. In both versions he wears a striped waistcoat and striped trousers, and in each the waistcoat is double breasted. Under his arm is always tucked a cane or stick. Sayer and his plagiarist both give the sailor a black bow at his throat, rather than the typical loose neckcloth. 

EDIT: Buzz Mooney points out that an added benefit of having both the colored and uncolored version of Sayer's print is that we can see what embellishments were added (and which weren't) by the colorist. Sometimes, when we only have access to the colored version of a print, there are touch-ups that can change the image. In this case, it could have been possible for the colorist to add stripes to the waistcoat and trousers. With both versions, however, we see that the stripes had been there all along and were fully intended by the engraver.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What the Hell do we call these?

An interesting discussion, and one certainly worth having, was brought up on the Facebook group 18th Century Reenactors by Ike Cech. Not without reason, the gentleman questioned my use of the term "slops" to refer to the wide legged short over-trousers worn by sailors in a substantial number of the images examined in this blog.

"Jack Oakham throwing out a Signal for an Engagement," printed by Sayer and Bennett, 1781, British Museum
"Slops" or "Slop-Cloaths" are terms used occasionally throughout the eighteenth century to refer to a sailor's rig. This, in turn, led to the naming of the "slop chest" from which sailors drew cloth and garments.

My use of the term was based primarily on eighteenth century dictionaries. One specifically defines slops as "a wide Sort of Breeches worn by Seamen." In the footnotes to a collection of Shakespeare, another defined slops as "large loose breeches, or trowsers, worn only by sailors at present." In Benjamin Martin's 1749 Lingua Britannica Reformata: Or, A New English Dictionary, slops are equated to "Galligaskins" or "a wide sort of breeches," with slops themselves defined simply as "seamans breeches." In all of these, identifying the garment as one worn specifically by sailors is key to the definition. "Slops" were a key garment to the identification of the profession and class of seamen. 

The story does not end here.

Dictionaries may have defined the English language in the literal sense, but they did not completely dictate its use. Common usage is difficult to determine, as common speech was not always recorded. Even so, we have access to far more sources than standard dictionaries.

One of the best textual sources for the historian of the eighteenth century, especially for the study of the lowest classes, is newspaper. Many surviving eighteenth century newspapers include advertisements, and many of those advertisements include run-aways. Investors and captains of ships were greatly concerned with those who fled their work, and so many advertisements on both sides of the Atlantic offered rewards to anyone who could retrieve runaway sailors.

Thankfully for us, those ads included descriptions of their clothing! The garments were described down to the color and fabric, giving us valuable insight. What is notably present from any that I have found thus far is the term "slops." As Ike points out, the term "trousers" (or its many alternate spellings) probably included the garment I refer to as "slops."

This calls into question how widely the term was used. Was it an archaic term, preserved only in dictionaries? Was it thought of as a quaint nickname, used only by the upper classes to refer to the clothing of the tars that carried their goods? It is impossible to state its precise use, but it quite possibly was not used as widely as I use it in this blog.

Instead, we should probably view it in the same way that clothing historians view the term "apple pasty hat" or as decorative arts experts refer to "highboys." Not necessarily a widely used term of the time, but a quick academic shorthand to the "wide legged breeches" without confusion with the longer legged trousers that are even more common in period images.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Tile, c.1758-1775

Tile, artist unknown, c. 1758-1775, Victoria and Albert Museum Collection.

Manufactured in Liverpool, England, this tile features the commonly depicted scene of a sailor and his lass. They stroll hand in hand across green grass while gazing into each other's eyes. As romantic a scene as any I've featured here!

The sailor wears a reversed cocked hat over short cut and curly hair. His neckcloth blows in the breeze and is of a solid color, probably white though the paint from his jacket and waistcoat bleed over the lines. Our tar's waistcoat is of an orangish-brown hue and single breasted, though he hasn't bothered to fasten a single of his buttons. A single breasted blue jacket, ending at the top of the thigh, lays atop that. His slops, brown in color, are decidedly fastened over his waistcoat, rather than beneath them. Interestingly, the slops appear to be fringed at the bottom. It is probably not an intentional fringing, but rather wear from use. I've never seen another pair with such a feature. His stockings are white, and he has a walking stick or cane tucked under his arm.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Eighteenth Century Gun Safety (or Lack Thereof)

Things have been a bit crazy around my quarters lately! I haven't the time (yet) to devote to the promised post in which I will examine my use of the term "slops" and whether or not that's actually an appropriate use of the term, nor to continue my series on headgear.

I would love to continue examining specific images (that tends to be a lot easier and quicker), but I have nearly exhausted the collections you'll find on the right. Please, if you have any other sources, pass them my way!

But don't let it be said I've forgotten you, kind reader. In the stead of more in depth examinations, let's have a look at this fun little bit I found at the Library of Congress while working on a separate project!

Not long ago, a pseudo-historian argued that in the entire "founding era" of the United States, only two gun accidents had ever occurred. This was intended as a buffer for some modern political argument, but it is frankly bad history. In the remarkably readable blog Boston 1775. the historian J.L. Bell did a thorough take-down of the clearly false argument, rendering this anecdote little more than a fun diversion, rather than a serious attempt to discredit a clearly false assertion.

In the November 17, 1740 edition of the South Carolina Gazette, the domestic intelligence reported thus:

For the sake of making this easier to search, I have taken the liberty to transcribe it.

On Monday last about 4 a-Clock in the Afternoon, the Men on board the Privateer commanded by Capt. Landgon lying in Rebellion Road, being cleaning their Fire Arms, one Benjamin Walker, Boatswain of the said Privateer, was unforunately shot in the right Breast by the Discharge of a Pistol, which George Harris, one of the Men, snapped in a careless Manner, not knowing that it was loaded ; the Boatswain died in a few Hours after. The Coroner's Inquest brought in their Verdict, Accidental Death.
On Tuesday last about 5 in the Afternoon, on Gordon Norton, a Ship-Carpenter in Tradd-street, having cleaned his Gun, loaded it at the Desire of his Wife, then brought it in to shew her how clean he had made it, and the Muzzle being towards her, it unfortunately went off, and shot her in the right Breast through her Body, whereby she instantly died. The next Day the Coroner's Inquest having viewed teh Body, and examined several Witnesses, it appeared that the said Norton and his Wife had lived together in mutual Love from the Day of their Marriage till this sad Accident, whereby the disconsolate Husband lost one of the best of Wives, having left  behind several young Children. The Jury brought in their Verdict Causal Death.
I know a lot of reenactors and collectors follow my blog. Take note: guns, even two century old flintlocks, are deadly. Be safe out there!